The 6-10 Houston Texans (6-11 if you count their loss on Draft Day) are NFL rarities.
Sure, they're unique in their aversion to pass blocking, their historical lack of a running game, and their being able to sweep the Jaguars while getting swept by the Titans.
The true one-of-a-kind stumper, though, is that the Texans are utterly untouched by NFL parity.
In their five years of existence, the team has never finished better than .500. A 7-9 year in 2004 is their best showing—which they followed up with a 2-14 flop.
The Texans aren't even close.
Much of the blame can be placed on several failed draft picks. David Carr was supposed to be the franchise quarterback. In drafting him, the Texans overlooked sure signs of NFL trouble—his sidearm throwing motion and flagrant metrosexuality—in favor of hype, potential, and the way Carr tore up the WAC in college.
Carr's demise in Houston epitomizes the performances of highly-touted underachievers up and down the Texans roster. First-round pick DT Travis Johnson is competing for a starting spot; CB Dunta Robinson is solid but unspectacular.
And don’t even get me started on Mario Williams.
Of course, the team's unlucky placement in the AFC South hasn’t helped. In the last five years, the Titans, Jaguars, and Colts have all enjoyed stretches of greatness.
Having to play each of them twice a year is a steep disadvantage.
Having to play them with Domanick Davis as a starting tailback is an insurmountable obstacle.
On the bright side, the Texans did make some dramatic changes in the offseason. Carr was cut and is now riding pine in Carolina. In his stead, the Texans traded for Atlanta’s super-sub QB Matt Schaub, who enters a season as a starting quarterback for the first time in his career.
The 2007 Texans backfield will feature Ahman Green—he of the 1800-yard rushing season...in 2003. To say that Green has lost a step might be understating things; he did, after all, split time with Vernand Morency last season.
Too bad Houston didn’t have a chance to draft a franchise running back in 2006.
The wide receiver position is still home to Andre Johnson, one of the best NFL wideouts nobody knows about. He won’t have much help, as the team cut Eric Moulds, a surprisingly efficient player last season, and replaced him with no one.
The offensive line isn't as bad as it was in those epic Carr-on-his-back years—but it isn't great, either. Former Chiefs OT Jordan Black was signed in the offseason, and he joins a patchwork group that features a number of starters playing in the wrong positions or returning from injured reserve.
Not exactly a recipe for success.
The defense, fortunately is in better hands. LB DeMeco Ryans won Defensive Rookie of the Year honors last season. If nothing else, his stellar play made Williams' lackluster year seem a little less crushing.
Robinson, meanwhile, is an adequate cornerback, and there are enough high draft picks on the D to improve the unit’s 24th-overall ranking from a year ago.
Parity has to shine on the Texans sooner or later—but the team is going to have to do its part. As the Texans have proven, the NFL's egalitarian system doesn’t work for poorly-managed, poorly-built teams.
Even if the rest of the South took a step back, the gap between the haves (Colts, Jaguars) and have-nots (Texans) is too big for it to matter.
The Texans would be wise to build a team that can at least survive in their own brutal division...and then they should hope and pray that some parity might finally come their way.
Without it, they won’t get to the playoffs anytime soon.
Projected finish: 4-12, 4th AFC South
Keep your eyes on: TE Owen Daniels—The team’s best option not named Johnson.
Take your eyes off: DE Anthony Weaver—Had one more sack than I did last year.